Wilbon Q/A: NBA Countdown isn’t trying to compete with Barkley, TNT; speaks on changes, Simmons, Magic

First of three parts:

It isn’t easy to pin down Michael Wilbon these days. It’s not that he doesn’t want to talk. The notion of silence doesn’t exist for him.

Rather, Wilbon is a constant man in motion this time of year. His regular gigs on NBA Countdown and Pardon the Interruption should be enough to fill his plate. Wilbon, though, still loves to write, which is why he was in Chicago to write a column off Sunday’s Bears-Houston game for ESPNChicago.com.

“It’s crazy, man,” he said.

After many texts, I finally connected with Wilbon Monday. And sure enough, he had plenty to say. Enough for a three-parter.

We discussed the state of sports writing in the wake of him editing and selecting the stories for Best American Sports Writing 2012; and why he feels the need to continue to cover games and … Continue Reading

Simmons, Rose part of revamped ESPN NBA Countdown

Bill Simmons’ dream continues to get better. The NBA junkie now will be talking hoops with Magic Johnson as part of ESPN’s revamped NBA Countdown.

In are Simmons and Jalen Rose. Out are Jon Barry and Chris Broussard. Remaining are Johnson and Michael Wilbon.

ESPN felt like the show needed some tweaks. Simmons, who has his hands on pretty much everything at ESPN, obviously is seen as an upgrade with his unique perspective.

Thanks to the magic of video, here are Simmons and Rose talking about being “teammates.”

For those who prefer reading, here are some quotes:

“I think the four of us will be able to have good conversations,” Simmons said. “We’re all going to say what we’re thinking. I’m better playing off other people and I think Jalen is the same way and I know Magic is the … Continue Reading

Dream Team Book Q/A: Best show ever in basketball; landing an interview with elusive Jordan

Jack McCallum was witness to one of the greatest miracles in sports: He saw me make a birdie on the par 3 12th hole at Augusta National. I dropped a six-iron to within four feet and actually made the putt. Not bad for a 15-handicapper who was playing like a 30 prior to that hole.

“Pretty good shot,” said McCallum, recalling our round the day after Jose Maria Olazabal’s victory in the 1999 Masters.

While it was the highlight of my pitiful sporting career (note: this is my blog and I will try to tell that tale as often as possible), McCallum has seen much greater feats of athletic prowess. Perhaps none were greater than the collective talents of the original ”Dream Team.”

Twenty years later, the long-time Sports Illustrated writer is out this week with what should be the hottest sports book of the summer: … Continue Reading

Get ready for return of Dream Team; NBA TV documentary debuts tonight

Given our love for anniversaries with round numbers, the 20-year mark for the legendary 1992 Olympics powerhouse will be front and center this summer. It begins with an NBA TV documentary simply titled, The Dream Team. It debuts Wednesday at 9 p.m. (ET) and will be replayed about a million times.

Then coming in July, Jack McCallum, who covered that bunch for Sports Illustrated, will be out with a new book, Dream Team: How Michael, Magic, Larry, Charles, and the Greatest Team of All Time Conquered the World and Changed the Game of Basketball Forever.

Quite a mouthful, Jack.

Both the documentary and the book are excellent. I’m planning an interview with Jack soon.

Then again, how could they miss given the subjects?

It was an unprecedented, and never duplicated, array of transcendent superstars playing for the same team; 11 of the 12 players are … Continue Reading

Who needs a host? ESPN exec explains why hostless NBA Countdown works

What ESPN did with its NBA Countdown show this year might not be good news for James Brown, Curt Menefee, Chris Berman, Chris Fowler, and countless other hosts of studio shows.

ESPN has proved that a studio show can be done without a quote-unquote host.

In one of the more unique experiments in recent years, ESPN decided to go without a studio host for its NBA studio show. In previous years, the network had employed Hannah Storm and Stuart Scott to direct the traffic.

This year, ESPN simply put Magic Johnson, Michael Wilbon, Chris Broussard, and Jon Barry at a table and let them talk. Wilbon does most of the nuts and bolts stuff when it comes to opening the segments. But unlike a regular host, his main purpose is to be an analyst, offering his opinions in the discussion.

ESPN’s version is … Continue Reading